When Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder, the franchise's best plans were well and truly foiled.
General manager Sam Presti had just traded for the exciting and explosive Victor Oladipo along with Ersan Ilyasova and the draft rights to Domantas Sabonis from the Orlando Magic while sending long-standing power forward Serge Ibaka in the opposite direction.
The idea behind the trade was to show KD that the Thunder could compete. With an ultra-athletic backcourt of Oladipo and the formidable Russell Westbrook supporting KD, Steven Adams, Enes Kanter and Ilyasova in the frontcourt, contention beckoned.
However, you take Durantula, the 2014 MVP, out of that equation and suddenly the picture is not so bright.
Now, Oladipo is not a mere supporting act to KD and Russ, he is one of the main attractions.
The interesting news for Thunder fans lies within his development. He showed during the franchise's tour of Spain that he is a valuable asset and outscored Westbrook in the team's first game against Real Madrid.
His three-point game has grown a lot, too. The difference between the 24-year-old's potency from beyond the arc when coming off the bench compared to starting last season was 10 percent in favour of the latter.
However, the former Indiana college standout refuses to be pigeon-holed as he progresses.
“I don’t have any limitations for myself,” Oladipo told USA Today Sports. “So I don’t just want to be a three-point shooter. I don’t just want to be a defensive stopper. I want to be one of the best players in this league, and in order to do that you have to affect the game on both ends and do multiple things, because if you look at all the special players in our league, they all do multiple things. They don’t do one thing great; they do a lot of things great.”
Still, three-and-D guards are the dream of every coach in the NBA right now, and there isn't an abundance of them.
Given how the league has transformed in recent years with teams stretching the floor and 'small ball' taking over, backcourts normally need to be able to sink some three-point bombs from time to time.
That's not Westbrook's forte, but if Oladipo can take his average north of 40 percent - his career average is currently 33.9 percent - then he will compliment his two-time All-Star MVP teammate's game nicely.
His new coach Billy Donovan, who tried to recruit him to Florida when he was the coach there, had plenty of praise for his new guard
“I think his game offensively, just being in the league and playing as much as he’s had the opportunity to play early on in his career, he’s continued to develop and evolve as an offensive player,” Donovan said. “Certainly the thing that jumps out at you right away is his motor, his energy and the way he competes.”
Oladipo has shown promising signs, but the onus is now on him to combine with Westbrook in a way that will help Thunder retain their status as deep playoff contenders.
Make no mistake about it, his development and the Thunder's hopes are intertwine.